This paper analyses the technoscientific objective of building a synthetic cell from a Jungian perspective. After decades of fragmentation and specialisation, the synthetic cell symbolises a turn towards restored wholeness, both at the object pole (putting the fragments together again) and at the subject pole (synthetic biology as a converging field, a Gesamtwissenschaft, fostering individuation). From a Jungian perspective, it is no coincidence that visual representations of synthetic cells often reflect an archetypal, mandala-like structure. As a symbol of restored unity, the synthetic cell mandala compensates for technoscientific fragmentation via active imagination, providing a visual aid for the technoscientific turn towards reintegration. Although the biotechnological desire to reconstruct life in vitro has been compared to alchemy before, a Jungian analysis allows us to make this comparison more specific and precise. The problem of archetypal images, however, is that alluring prospects of reintegration may underestimate and obfuscate the deficiencies and tensions at work in the current situation. As a projection of a future wholeness, it fosters optimism, but may also function as a misleading façade, covering up collisions and complexities. This can be averted by the conscious employment of the mandala as a symbolic scaffold fostering processes of individuation and working through.

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Keywords Synthetic biology, synthetic, cell, Jungian psychoanalysis, psychoanalysis of science, continental philosophy of, science, Jung and science
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Journal International Journal of Jungian Studies
Zwart, H.A.E. (2018). The Synthetic Cell as a Techno-scientific Mandala. International Journal of Jungian Studies, 1–21. doi:10.1080/19409052.2018.1441890